Ferry holds off Bellaire
• Purple Riders will play Saturday at Garaway
MARTINS FERRY — During the regular season, Martins Ferry and Bellaire split their two meetings, so it didn’t surprise Purple Rider head coach Dave Reasbeck when the Big Reds elected to play Ferry in the opening round of the Division III sectional tournament.
As one would expect in a rubbermatch between two ancient rivals in a tournament setting, both the Purple Riders and Big Reds left it all on the floor Wednesday evening inside the Tolbert Gymnasium.
In the end, however, the Purple Riders had just a little bit more and survived an impressive second-half comeback by the Big Reds to claim a cherished 57-53 victory and earn the right to play Saturday at 2 p.m. in Sugarcreek against Garaway.
“I told our girls, the main two words are practice (on Thursday),” a relieved Reasbeck said. “This time of year … who cares if you play well? It’s all about getting the win.”
While the Purple Riders are back in the gym today with a 17-6 record, Bellaire head coach John Farrier is bidding farewell to the winningest class of seniors, including Katrina Davis, Mia Gavarkavich and Tayah Frazier, in Lady Reds history after a more than impressive 15-8 season.
“Every year, I don’t think it’s going to be that hard (to see it end), but …” Farrier said, fighting back emotion. “These seniors went out like the champions they are. They just battled and battled. When I looked at our schedule, before the season, and thought if everything breaks right and all the stars are aligned for us, the max wins would be 16, and we got awfully close. This senior class has 79 wins to their credit, which is a heck of a resume.”
The Purple Riders — for a half anyway — looked like they were going to cruise to the next round. They held a 20-5 lead after one and upped it to 32-15 at halftime.
“The way we played in the first half is probably the best we’ve played in a while,” Reasbeck said. “But, we knew Monroe Central had (Bellaire) down by 16 and Bellaire came back to win. We also new (Katrina Davis’) season was on the line and she wasn’t going to go out with fighting.”
Bellaire senior Katrina Davis — who is a legitimate all-Ohio candidate for the brilliant campaign she’s put forth this season — did as she’s done all season. She saddled her teammates up and they went to work.
“I really didn’t say much at halftime, but these girls are a resilient bunch,” Farrier said. “We talked about playing how we play, keeping after it and getting up (defensively). We played too passively in the first half. The girls played like the champions we know they are in the second half, but unfortunately, we just came up short.”
The Big Reds, who trailed by 16 in the middle of the third, started to chip away thanks to Davis scoring the final nine points of the period, making it 40-33 after three.
Bellaire was just getting started.
The Big Reds opened the fourth with a Davis’ bonus goal and then scored six of the next seven to take a 42-41 lead, which was the first time all evening they’d been in front.
The lead was short-lived, however. Martins Ferry began a parade to the foul line. They connected on 12-of-15 in the fourth, including a stretch of 11 in a row.
Seniors Shayla Schuster and Jaden Stalder did most of that, knocking home 11-of-12 themselves. They meshed four in a row in a stretch to stop the Bellaire spurt.
Davis tallied again to get the Big Reds within one, but sophomore Maria Clark got a bucket to go with less than four to play. Junior Kaleigh Leigh — off a Davis pass — knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the game with 3:10 to play.
A Madison Ging bonus goal answered and then Schuster and Stalder began shooting fouls again as the Purple stretched their lead back to seven at 54-47.
“I don’t think they hit the rim on those free throws,” Farrier noted. “Give Ferry credit. They have six seniors, who have played together for a long time, and they came through when they needed to come through.”
Still, Bellaire wasn’t done. The teams traded foul shots and then Davis got two more at the line and after a Rider turnover, Leigh tallied again, making it 56-53, but Clark got one at the line and the Big Reds simply ran out of time.
“We got a couple steals, Maria Clark had a monster hoop and we made our foul shots,” Reasbeck said. “I think we got a little wide-eyed, hunkered down and then played pretty well in the last five minutes and snuck out of here with a win.”
The Purple Riders were led by senior Richella Spielvogel, who had all 16 of her points in the first half, and Ging, who also finished with 16. Schuster added 13.
Bellaire was led Davis, who once again stuffed the stat sheet. She had 33 points, eight rebounds and eight steals. Three other Big Reds finished with five in top support.